Planning on Setting Sail? Steer Clear of These 10 Mistakes

There is nothing quite like the feelings you experience when you are sailing.

Heading out into a vast expanse of open water, with the wind blowing through your hair, the salty taste of the ocean splashing on your face, and a tingle running up and down your spine, it can be a wonderful experience.

Captivating, meditative and introspective, you can fully immerse yourself in the moment and temporarily live in a happy bubble, as the pressures of your daily life dissipate for a while.

No wonder almost 4 million people in the USA go sailing every year!

However, as idyllic an experience it might be, there is no doubt that boating does have a dangerous element to it, with the US coast guard reporting 633 deaths occurring at sea in 2018.

While that should not stop you from following your passion, if you are planning on setting sail, especially if you are relatively inexperienced on the water, it pays to be very careful.

So, with that in mind, in this guide, we’ll highlight 10 mistakes to steer clear of, for those who are planning on setting sail.

10 Common Mistakes to steer clear of

Even the saltiest of sea dogs have run into trouble at some point in their sailing career.

However, once you have procured your boat – and if you haven’t got one yet using Grays is a great option for doing so – it is important to make sure you take the following steps, to enable your sailing experience to be every bit as good as you want it to be.

1. Check the Weather Forecast

You would think this would be a no-brainer. But the number of people who have difficulties on the water due to inclement weather they didn’t know was coming, would surprise you.

Be sure to thoroughly check the marine weather (as opposed to the regular forecasts for the mainland) just before you set sail. If it looks like there will be choppy seas, gale force winds, or full-on storms, it’s probably best to stay on dry land.

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As weather can be unpredictable, it is a good idea to regularly refer to a Marine Weather Apps that can keep you up to date with the prevailing conditions whilst you are on the water.

2. Not having enough gas

This is another no-brainer, which unfortunately happens regularly.

Don’t be fooled by a full petrol gauge when your boat is empty and the weather is clear, because fuel consumption levels in marine vessels are influenced by factors like wind conditions and your weight load.

At the best of times fuel gauges on boats are nowhere near as reliable as the ones on cars. So what it shows on the metre, can vary depending on the degree to which fuel is sloshing around inside the tank as well.

A good rule of thumb, that most experienced boaters abide by, is this time honoured formula. Save a third of your fuel capacity for the outbound journey, and a third for the return leg. Keep the other third up your sleeve as a contingency.

3. Don’t overload the boat

Another common mistake many boaters make is that they overload the vessel with weight.

This can take the form of possessions and also people, and can result in a miscalculation which may have grave consequences.

Be mindful of the boat’s capacity, and if in doubt, err on the side of conservatism, to ensure you fall within a safe zone.

To help you remember the boat’s capacity you should display it prominently within the vessel.

4. Don’t get lost

Easier said than done, but getting lost at water used to be a real issue for many inexperienced sailors.

Thankfully this is not happening as much these days, as a result of state-of-the marine navigation and electronic instruments being installed on most vessels. However, it does still happen every now and then.

Computers and electrical systems can have gremlins occasionally. So it is always worth being aware of your location, route and how to get back to shore, irrespective of what electronic devices you may have at your disposal.

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If your boat does not have satellite navigation gear, be sure to install a marine navigation app onto your phone as a back up. In times of need, you will be able to use it to plot a course back to dry land.

5. Running your boat aground

You’ll be surprised how common an occurrence people running their boat aground is. Doing this can have serious ramifications for your vessel, particularly if you do so in a rocky harbour, as it can cause a lot of damage to its underside.

Whenever you approach the shore it is worth being aware of what underwater hazards may be hidden from your view. A quick Google search, or call to the relevant authority should put your mind at ease.

If in doubt, be sure to slow right down as you near the harbour or shoreline, that way you will have more time to react if you should hit a rocky part of the sea bed.

6. Mind the dock!

There is a time honoured saying among members of the boating community that is worth remembering. It goes ‘never approach a dock faster than you’re willing to hit it’.

Just like when reverse parking a car, it is always worth taking your time to ease yourself gently into the space, and be sure to pay attention too.

All it takes is a momentary lapse of concentration, and you could end up with thousands of dollars worth of damage on your hands. As well as looking a bit foolish in front of anyone who is watching.

7. Forgetting to keep the vessel in good working order

This is a very easy thing to do, especially if you don’t go sailing all that often.

However, in the same way as you would give your car the once over, and possibly even take it to a qualified mechanic for a service, if you were planning a long road trip, you should consider doing the same for your boat.

Without regular maintenance, your vessel can soon develop issues, and the last place you want to discover these is out in the open water. So, as the old adage goes, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.

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8. Running the engine completely dry

To cool them, most marine engines need a regular supply of water.

However, whilst doing this, the water also serves to lubricate the water pump impeller that is usually incorporated within the propulsion system.

Should you run your boat’s motor while on dry land for a prolonged period of time, without enough of a water supply, it will quickly overheat.

This could also result in the impeller becoming damaged as well – something that can be very costly to fix.

9. Forgetting to insert the drain plug

If you want to keep your trail-boat in good working condition, you should always take your boat plug out when you leave the vessel. However, be sure to put it back in before you use it again.

Failure to do so will cause the boat to flood, which is a situation you really don’t want to be involved in.

10. Putting Out Insufficient Anchor Line

Anchoring a boat would seem like a fairly straightforward task.  All you need to do once you’ve lowered the anchor is to just clear the line and the boat will be stationary.

However, if not done correctly then you are actually putting yourself at risk.

Always drop the anchor by the bow, and never by the stern, as the bow is designed to provide a barrier to the waves.

If you do drop the anchor by the stern, flash flooding or swamping can occur from waves crashing over the lower, blunt-shaped stern.

Final Thought

So there it is!

Our recommendation of 10 common mistakes people make when sailing.

If you follow these guidelines this should go a long way to ensuring your sailing experience is a thoroughly enjoyable one.

However, if all this seems like too much responsibility, don’t worry, you can always go on a cruise instead!

About the author

Adrian Cruce

I just love to travel, write about travel and so much more! :D Hope you enjoy my articles and Travel Tips. Feel free to comment below and get in touch with me on my blog and on Twitter!